Following the multiple commercials during the Super Bowl, people wonder what TEMU is and whether or not it’s ethical.

During the pandemic a lot of bored people were buying from a site called Shein, a Chinese-owned company that sells pretty much anything under the sun (besides food) for a cheap price. Whether or not it’s actually of good quality, can vary depending on what you are buying.

From personal experience, I can say that the clothing is shorter and smaller than what is stated in their sizing chart and some of the gadgets can be very flimsy and cheaply made. A few years ago, a new Shein doppelgänger, also Chinese-owned, was created. This is where TEMU comes in.

What is TEMU?

TEMU (pronounced teh-moo) has everything and more that Shein does. You can purchase anything from clothes to decor to household essentials. There is a large variety of products that feel like you’re in a thrift store, you never know what you’re going to discover. While the company is Chinese-owned, it was originally founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2022. Even though TEMU has only been around for almost two years, it is the most downloaded new app in America. 

According to the company’s site, TEMU means “Team Up, Price Down” which is supposed to reflect their philosophy that customers will enjoy their products at a low price and great quality. I have bought items from TEMU and some of the products I bought were fairly similar to Shein’s: flimsy and cheaply made, some even came with holes.

What are the controversies surrounding TEMU and are they an ethical company?

To determine whether a company is ethical or not, you have to look at many aspects. I think that this is an unethical company because I feel that they’re cheating people out of their hard-earned money with cheaply-made products that could be done by someone in forced labor. As a company, you should want people to be proud of their purchase, not upset that what they were promised isn’t up to par. After some research, TEMU is on my unethical spectrum.

Recently the US Government accused TEMU of being a potential threat to security to the US customer. According to CNBC, TEMU could potentially access “user security permissions, access private messages, modify settings, view data from other apps and prevent uninstallation” without full consent. On the semi-bright side, this potential threat was mainly targeted towards Android phones and Chinese users.

They also came under fire when the US accused them of avoiding the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act which is used to “develop a strategy for supporting enforcement of the prohibition on the importation of goods into the United States manufactured wholly or in part with forced labor in the People’s Republic of China.” However, a spokesperson at TEMU told BBC that employees must “comply with all regulatory standards and compliance requirements.”

While all that takes place behind the screen, some issues take place in front of the screen as well. According to Time, there have been multiple reports to the Better Business Bureau of “undelivered packages, mysterious charges, and unresponsive customer service.” TEMU was rated C+ and was given no accreditation by the Better Business Bureau because of the 1,816 complaints filed against the business. Hearing this doesn’t make customers more eager to place orders.

Placing orders with expedited shipping or any shipping doesn’t have the greatest impact on our environment. Prioritizing fast manufacturing and distribution leads to more carbon emissions, making our world dirtier and unhealthy.

What now?

If you find unethical companies like TEMU uneasy or unsettling and want to know which companies you purchase from are ethical, I encourage you to look deeper into their mission and core values. Look not only into their employee labor regulations but also their sustainability efforts and if purchasing from them is worth spending your hard-earned money. Looking deeper into the companies we not only outwardly support but financially support can help us rest easy that our money is going to something we can stand behind and support.

It’s important to note that there are small businesses in need of our support. We should always support and look out for the little guys and help them rise to the top just as we did with the companies we know today.